Gender Differences In Sleep – How Sleep Is Different for Men and Women?

It looks that sleep is another reason in which men and women differ. Experts in sleep science have researched the topic and concluded that genders differ in their sleep patterns too. There are different aspects concerning sleep that we should take in account when speaking about sleep distinctions between men and women. First of all how healthy do both genders sleep? What influences their sleep habits? And finally, who needs more sleep and why?

Let’s discover what sleep experts have to say about it.

Sleep is one of the bare necessities one needs in order to stay alive. However, there are plenty of factors that affect how good we sleep. The amount of time spent asleep is definitely one of them, but so is the sleep quality. Sometimes you can sleep poorly despite being asleep for 8 or 9 hours.

Let’s first answer the question: “Who needs more sleep?”

Who Needs More Sleep? Men or Women?

According to Dr. Jim Horne, women need more sleep than man. In one of his articles he explained that women need about twenty minutes more of sleep than man. The reason behind this slightly bigger need for sleep in women is in female’s multitasking habits.

Women tend to multitask much more than man during the day. By doing so, they tend to use more of their actual brain. Dr. Horne explains that the more you use your brain throughout the day, the more you need to rest at night.

But is there something else that could be causing women to need more sleep?

These are the main reasons women need to sleep more than man:

  • Multitasking Brain – As we just mentioned, women’s brain is wired a bit differently than men’s. Women tend to multitask much more often than men. In fact, you probably don’t even pay attention to it, but can you even imagine your dad cooking three different meals, talking on the phone while watering the plants all at the same time? Probably not.
  • Hormonal Changes – Since hormones control our major bodily functions and influences our emotions and mood, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that menstrual cycles, pregnancy or menopause also affect how women sleep. All these cycles and hormonal conditions can cause sleep disruptions or even sleep disturbances.
  • Busier Schedules – Because of the more demanding routines with small children and house work, mothers might not have enough time for a healthy sleep. After giving birth, babies can have irregular sleeping cycles which causes mothers to wake up in the night and disrupt their already poor sleep. Lack of sleep also influences how we feel, so it’s completely understandable that women that don’t sleep enough are more easily irritated than those that get enough sleep.

Who Has Healthier Sleep? Men or Women?

Although women need more sleep, men actually have a much healthier sleep. Sleeping disorders affect more nearly 40 million Americans, however women are more prone to developing sleep related disorders than men.

Research has shown that an average women that is from 30 to 60 years old sleeps only six hours and forty-one minutes during the workweek. Considering that people need from seven to nine hours in order to function well the next day, it’s easy to deduct that women are lacking sleep. Therefore, it’s no wonder that women are at a higher risk of having sleep disorders.

What are the sleep disorders women suffer more from?

  • Insomnia – This is the most common sleep problem of all. In a NSF Sleep in America poll from 2002, it was found that women were much more likely to experience some symptoms of insomnia at least couple nights a week. 63 percent of all surveyed women reported having these symptoms, while “only” 54 percent of men reported experiencing the same.
  • Narcolepsy – Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder of being excessive daytime sleepiness and having “sleep attacks” during the day. Although this condition affects only one in 2000 people, it is more likely to happen in women that are pregnant or are under a hormonal therapy.
  • Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder – This is a very rare condition that involves eating food during the night while appearing to be asleep. People that have NS-RED do not remember their nighttime eating and it usually occurs during sleepwalking. One study has shown that over 66 percent of people suffering from NS-RED were women.
  • Nighttime Pain – According to different polls, women reported more episodes or pain or physical discomfort that interrupted their sleep. One in four women couldn’t sleep because of pain for three nights in a week.
  • Night Shift Work – Our circadian rhythms are meant to be controlled by light. Therefore, people that work night shifts might easily get their circadian rhythms out of balance causing them to have sleeping difficulties and developing other health problems with time. It was found that women are more affected then men when it comes to night shift work. The reason behind it might be in the fact that women tend to work more on their free days than men.

But are there any sleep disturbances that occur more often in men? There are definitely some, but it was shown that women are generally more susceptible to sleep disorders than men. Let’s see what are these sleep disturbances that are more common in men:

  • Sleep Apnea – This sleep disorder involves snoring, interrupted breathing during sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. In America sleep apnea affects 18 million people. This disorder affects men more than women, but after the age of 50 it increases in women too. Sleep apnea affects more menopausal women which contributes to the likeliness of women developing it. In fact, one in every four women over 65 years old have sleep apnea.
  • Effects of Sleep Deprivation – During a study, it was found that men saw a bigger decrease in their work performances due to lack of sleep than women. Although this might seem as illogical due to the fact that women need more sleep in order to function well, it is actually very logical when you take sleep stages into consideration.

Sleeping habits and patterns of men and women are influenced by several significant biological differences among them. So, most of these disorders are actually due to these core differences that differ women’s sleep from men’s and vice versa.

When it comes to sleep, these are the biggest differences between men and women.

1. Timing Of Circadian Cycles

Due to differences in timing of circadian cycles, women are more inclined to fall asleep earlier than men. Also, women are more likely to wake up earlier too.

This all affects how we behave and feel in the morning. So, as a result of the discrepancies in the timing of circadian cycles among the sexes, ladies will likely get active earlier in the morning than gentlemen.

2. Duration Of Circadian Cycle

Scientists observed circadian rhythms of 157 men and women and came to a conclusion that sleep actually isn’t affected by a perfect 24-hour cycle. They have discovered that women’s circadian clocks were actually shorter than men circadian cycles by 6 minutes.

When these minutes add up, the sudden drops in energy levels or effects of deeper sleep are much more evident in women. Also, there were much more women having circadian cycles that are shorter than 24-hours.

3. Depth of Sleep Stages

It is known that women spend more time in slow-wave sleep stages than men. These stages of sleep play the crucial role in our body’s regeneration and memory.

But what is causing women to sleep in these deeper stages more than men? This could be due to the fact that women usually feel tired earlier in the evening combined to the fact that women tend not to sleep as much as they need and have busier schedules. As a result of this latent sleep deprivation, when they reach bed, they fall to deep stages of sleep more quickly in order to restore their body faster.

This principle is what is used in polyphasic and biphasic sleeping patterns to promote a better quality of restorative sleep.


Also, it is known that sleep affects how you feel and think throughout the day. So, if your partner has been easily irritated recently, or your girlfriend becomes angry for the smallest things, you might want to suggest a good nap, or work on improving your sleeping environment. It is incredible what a good night of sleep is capable of doing.

Although there are plenty of things that work really the same in both men and women, there are still some differences we should acknowledge and understand in order to improve our overall quality of life.